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Layout 1 (Page 9 - 10)Sarah Hyndman brings 20 years of experience as a graphic designer, with findings from neurologists and psychologists, to her book about types and fonts. When I read the book’s blurb, I expected a collection of essays, which this book is not. It’s a largely visual, hands-on introduction to typeface, how it permeates our lives and how we, often unknowingly, react to it. And the book is fun! It is peppered with games, so you really understand what the author is saying. It also provides a pair of “font goggles”—paper glasses—with a blue and red lens to be used in some of the games.

When I ordered the book, I was given a choice of five typefaces for the cover: three serif and two sans serif.[1] And the typeface I chose would reveal something about my personality. So when the book arrived, the first thing I did was to read the character description for my typeface. And I have to say, it was pretty close!

Which brings me to the thread that runs through The Type Taster—that typefaces have a personality which fits each type to certain kinds of function. For example, it would be highly unlikely to see cursive typefaces advertising cheap products or blocky ones advertising those that are expensive.

We live in a world where we are surrounded by types and fonts, whether in print or online (where programmes such as Word provide a bewildering array of fonts), in storefront signs or labels on products. All we have to do is look around. As typeface consumers, we react to fonts and the subliminal messages that they convey—for example, imagine a clothing store sign using an art deco font, and another using a 1960s font, such as the one on The Beatles Yellow Submarine album cover. They would be very different clothing stores.

Hyndman takes us into a world where typefaces not only have character, but are associated also with sound, smell and touch. A jagged typeface invokes fear, danger, the sound of shattering glass; a smooth, round typeface imparts comfort. While I enjoyed the author’s association of each typeface with a specific personality trait, I felt that figuring out the sort of shoes and clothes each typeface personality would wear was a bit farfetched.

Hyndman makes learning about types and fonts a great deal of fun. She packs a lot of information without being pedantic. I would recommend this book especially to those of you who haven’t really thought about types and fonts. You’ll be surprised by how much you can learn. Hyndman also has a website, http://typetasting.com/

[1] For those of you who have not discovered the fascinating world of typeface, a couple of explanatory notes. Type refers to families of fonts, such as Arial, Times New Roman and so on. Fonts are more specific. For example, Arial Bold Italic is a font, while Arial is a type. Having said that, the two words tend to be used interchangeably.

Serifs are the little squiggles at the ends of letters. Times New Roman is a serif font, while Arial is a sans (“without”, in French) serif font. This blog is always in a sans serif font.